Investigation of the violence inhibition mechanism model of psychopathy in a non-institutionalized sample
MetadataShow full item record
The present study examined specific predictions of the Violence Inhibition Model of Psychopathy (“VIM”; Blair, 1995) within a university student sample. The study was conducted over the Internet and included 1,245 female and 756 male university students. Participants completed a moral/conventional distinction task, a facial emotion recognition task, and self-report measures of psychopathy, empathy capacity, and mild and serious antisocial behavior. To extend past findings within institutionalized samples, psychopathic traits among these university students were used to predict performance on two outcome indices of VIM dysfunction: (1) the ability to distinguish moral from conventional transgressions and (2) the frequency of reference to the welfare of another as justification for not engaging in a moral transgression. To test the developmental hypothesis of VIM theory, facial emotion recognition performance was used to predict psychopathic traits among these students. Finally, the role of empathy as a mediator of the relationship between VIM functioning and psychopathy was examined. Study findings provided some evidence that VIM dysfunction may be associated with the affective, interpersonal characteristics of psychopathy (primary psychopathy) in the general population, particularly among males. While both male and female participants with elevated levels of these characteristics were less likely to prohibit a moral transgression out of concern for the welfare of another, high primary psychopathic trait males also had more difficulty distinguishing moral from conventional transgressions. Contrary to predictions, poorer ability to process facial expressions of emotional distress did not uniquely predict primary psychopathy for males or females. Emotional, but not cognitive empathy capacity was found to partially mediate the association between primary psychopathic characteristics and the outcome indices of VIM dysfunction; however, both empathy dimensions partially mediated the relationship between reduced emotional processing ability and primary psychopathy. Results indicate that primary psychopathy may be related to less specific neurocognitive dysfunction than predicted by VIM theory.